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Dark but Hopeful

August 5, 2016

Friday turned into a disaster before we even left our motel room.

As we were getting ready for the day, Sam lied to me about something. I don’t want to bore you with the details, so I won’t go into them. But it was immediately obvious he was lying, and when I called him on it he stubbornly insisted that he hadn’t lied. I got angrier and angrier, and he dug in deeper and deeper.

Nobody likes being lied to, but I take it more personally than most people. I am always honest, and I deeply value honesty in others. And as a high school teacher, I spend a pretty high percentage of my workday being lied to, so I get particularly upset when I’m being lied to in my personal life.

We had a huge fight. Huge. I can’t even remember the last time I was so angry at him. By the time we got into the car, I set the GPS to our home address.

In tears, Sam made a desperate call to his mom for help. With her intervention, I agreed to continue west to Omaha and spend Shabbat trying to repair our relationship and see if it was worth seeing our trip through to completion.

Our first stop was just a half mile from our motel: the site of Bonny and Clyde’s last bank robbery before police finally caught up with them. In front of the building there’s supposedly a plaque remembering the event, but we’ll never know because the road was closed in all directions because the exact intersection where the old bank stood is being completely rebuilt.


I think that corner building is the one that used to be the bank, but we never got to find out.



Needless to say, my mood was not improving. I grudgingly, angrily headed to our next stop: Adair, Iowa, the site of another historic robbery. This one was the first-ever train robbery in the West, perpetuated by Billy the Kid and his gang. It’s commemorated on the by a 20-foot stretch of train track on the side of a road, and a big train wheel with a plaque on it.



Adair is also the home of a water tower painted as a smiley face–ironic considering our moods.



I’ll admit that the giant smile did actually make me crack a smile for just a moment. I was still sore, and it certainly didn’t turn the day around, but it didn’t hurt.


The next destination brought the frustration right back. Remember when I said that worthwhile attractions in central Iowa are kind of hard to find? Well, In the very small farming town of Brayton, Iowa, there’s a big tree growing right in the middle of an intersection. Compared to the rest of Iowa, this is what counts as worth seeing. The only problem was that we couldn’t find it. It’s on Nighthawk Road, but Nighthawk Road stops and starts and stops and starts again, and we couldn’t find the right part of it. Now would be a good time to mention that the roads are all gravel roads.

So there I was, in a terrible mood, furious at my only companion, wishing I was home, completely lost on gravel roads looking for an effing tree. We eventually found the tree, which was certainly odd and eye-catching, if not really worth the hassle.



The thing is, in a better mood I would have seen all these annoyances as adding to the adventure. But the morning’s argument had turned everything negative in my eyes.


Even the sight of a giant steel spider with the body of a Volkswagon Beetle in Avoca, Iowa, couldn’t brighten my spirits.


What finally started turning the day around was Omaha. It’s on the Missouri River, a literal stone’s throw from the western border of Iowa. And it was our first stop there that finally put a real smile on my face.

Omaha is known for three things: Warren Buffett, the College World Series, and tornados. Warren Buffett is a little out of our league, and the College World Series is played in June, so those were never options for us. As for tornados, the weather was sunny with temperatures in the high 70s today, so we appear to be safe, at least for now.

So we had to dig a little to find fun stuff to do in Omaha, but we found enough. For one thing, it was kind of nice to finally make it into Nebraska, my 48th state (and Sam’s 47th). But then we went to a historic neighborhood near downtown called Old Market, and that was even better.

Old Market is known for its cobblestone streets and its quirky and cool restaurants and shops.


Our favorite was a store called City Limit, which sells all sorts of fun, snarky, or otherwise unusual items. There were odd books of all sorts, literary and historical action figures and bobbleheads, obnoxious greeting cards, and so much more that I don’t know how to describe it all. I got a couple of pairs of really odd socks and some My Little Pony Pez dispensers. Sam got himself a pair of little rubber feet that are meant to be worn on your fingers.

My fury started to ease, and we had a pretty good time wandering the neighborhood and its funky shops.


The next stop was a somewhat disappointing Lewis and Clark thing that turned out to be just an informative visitors center. But a couple of blocks away was a much better attraction: the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge, which curves back and forth across the Missouri River, connecting Iowa and Nebraska with particular beauty.



Here Sam stands with one foot in Iowa and one in Nebraska



One thing we like about Omaha is that there are nice little parks and statues scattered around, including downtown, where we found a particularly impressive (and large) statue of Nebraska wildlife.

Omaha is also home to Boys Town, the famous village for underprivileged boys started by Father Flanagan decades ago. Of particular interest to us, though, is Father Flanagan’s ball of stamps–a solid ball maybe four feet in diameter that was literally made just by sticking thousands and thousands of stamps on to each other.



It’s the biggest ball of stamps in the world, although I tend to doubt there are too many competitors for the title. Unfortunately, visitors are not allowed to help increase its size.



By then it was about time to head to our hotel and get ready for Shabbat. We’re both a lot calmer, and hopefully Shabbat will give us the time and opportunity to work out exactly what happened this morning and how to move forward.

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